‘No chance’ of finding 159 Nepal landslide victims

KATMANDU, Nepal — Rescuers recovered two more bodies, taking the death toll to 10 from a massive weekend landslide in northern Nepal, but said there was no chance of finding alive any of the more than 150 people believed still buried under the rubble.

Police and army rescuers helped by villagers resumed their search Monday through piles of rock, mud and upturned trees.

Gopal Parajuli, the chief government administrator in the area, said they were using bulldozers and excavators to dig through the debris in some areas.

Rescuers were also trying to carve out temporary roads to reach people stranded on the other side of Arniko highway, a route that connects Katmandu with northern districts and the border with China.

The landslide that struck early Saturday blocked a mountain river, causing it to back up and form a lake that was threatening to burst and sweep away several villages, although Parajuli said the water level was slowly falling.

Officials have, however, ruled out finding anyone alive.

“We have no chance of finding any of the missing people alive under this pile of debris,” said Yadav Prasad Koirala, who heads the government’s Department of Natural Disaster Management. “We have the names of 159 people who are believed to be missing and buried, but there could be even more people.”

The landslide Saturday morning crushed dozens of houses in the village of Mankha, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Katmandu, Nepal’s capital.

Controlled explosions by the army on Saturday managed to knock down part of an earth wall that had blocked a river and created a temporary dam, allowing some water to flow out, but much of it still remained trapped, posing a threat to downstream villages as far away as India.

A Mankha resident who was among the dozens of people injured by the landslide said he feared his entire village had been wiped out.

Durga Lal Shrestha said there were nearly 100 people in the 60 houses in his village and 20 more people in a neighboring village who were buried by the landslide.

Shrestha, who suffered bruises on his face and arms, said he and his family heard a rumbling sound and felt the ground shake.

“The walls in my house caved in, but the roof was fine and that is how we were able to survive,” he said.

In neighboring India’s Bihar state, authorities evacuated thousands of villagers after flood warnings were issued in eight districts. Indian soldiers, and air force helicopters and jets were being readied to launch relief and rescue operations, said Anirudh Prasad, a top official in Patna, Bihar’s capital.

Landslides are common in mostly mountainous Nepal during the rainy season, which runs from June through September.

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